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Gardening Question of the Day

Can I grow anything in the area under my outdoor stairs where very little light reaches?

You should test the light there because, of course, any growing thing needs light to survive. On a sunny day, hold your hand several inches above the ground. If your hand makes any shadow at all, there's hope! Some good bets for this kind of densely shaded area are wild violets or Lamium, Bishop's Weed, and Sweet Woodruff. The violets and Sweet Woodruff will produce flowers, if that's what you're hoping for, while the others will give you some nice variegated leaves. Now, a second challenge will be to make sure you get enough water to those plants. Regular watering under your stairs would be essential! Good luck!

Last 7 Days

    What is the Asian long-horned beetle? I've been hearing about it as a garden pest.

    The Asian long-horned beetle has recently been attacking trees in the United States. The larvae girdle tree stems and branches, which can lead to dieback in the crown, possibly even killing the tree. This import, which probably made its way here in packing materials, has long been killing hardwood trees in China. Here in the United States, the beetle prefers box elder, Norway, red, silver, sugar, and sycamore maples, among other trees. The only way to eliminate these beetles seems to be removal and burning of the infested trees. Early detection and treatment are crucial. Infested areas must be quarantined.

    Do peanuts grow very well in central Mississippi?

    Peanuts require at least five months of warm weather, with rainfall (or equivalent irrigation) of at least 600 mm during the growing season. The best soil for peanuts is well-drained, sandy loam with a deep, friable loam subsoil.

    Where do cashews grow, on trees or bushes, and do they have shells?

    The cashew is a tropical and subtropical evergreen shrub or tree. It grows where soil is fertile and humidity high. Cashews are native to tropical Central and South America, and are now abundant in East Africa and India. Cashews do have shells, actually like two walls. The thin outer shell is smooth and glasslike. The inner shell is hard and must be cracked like other nuts. The fruits are picked by hand, and the nuts are usually first detached, then sun dried.

    What is citron and can I grow it?

    Citron is a citrus fruit similar to a large lemon. It is grown mostly for its thick, soft rind, but the bitter pulp of the fruit is also used in drinks. The tree is a member of the orange family and may be grown in a warm climate such as California or Florida.

    Ringling Brothers gives away elephant manure when the circus comes to Atlanta. Is pachyderm poop good for my garden? What is the best manure for gardening?

    Assuming that the circus elephants are American born (there are no federal restrictions on their waste, although manure from imported animals must be burned or buried), elephant manure can be as useful as any other. However, we do not know the nutrient content. Horse manure is generally regarded as the best; it's rich in nitrogen, and it ferments easily. Cow or horse manure applied in the early spring is best for flower gardens; chicken, cow, or horse manure applied in the spring and fall is best for vegetable gardens; cow or horse manure applied in the fall is best for potatoes or root crops. For acid-loving plants, cow or horse manure should be applied in the early fall or not at all. Never use fresh manure. Another excellent manure is sheep manure. Sheep chew their cud so finely that there are no weed seeds being inadvertently applied to your garden bed. Make sure all manure is aged or composted.

    When I bring my houseplants into the house at the end of summer, they seem to sprout bugs, whereas they were bug-free outside. What's up?

    The likely explanation is that outside your bugs were getting eating up by other bugs or predators. Outdoors, you've got lacewings, spiders, wasps, or beetles helping you out. Since the common household insects like aphids, mealybugs and mites reproduce so well, all you need is a few of them remaining on your leaves when you bring the plants indoors and it won't take long for a colony to thrive.

    What's the best way to keep pigweed from coming back in our garden in Michigan?

    Cover your garden plot with a winter mulch, then till the garden shallowly in early spring. When you till you may bring up some pigweed seed so it's best to mulch again. Cover the soil with five layers of wet newspaper and cover that with 3-6 inches of mulch.

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